Christmas Anime Heartbreak

It’s Christmas, and unknown to many except a particularly hardcore set of mecha fans, it is a time for self-inflicted heartbreak. /m/ has a tradition of watching Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket every Christmas season and it has me thinking of other terrible Christmas episodes. By terrible, I mean heartbreakingly sad.

Now why would anyone want to celebrate Christmas this way? Frankly, I don’t really know. I only think that War in the Pocket is one of the best damn shows I have ever seen, and that Christmas is probably the best time to watch it, given that the climax of the show transpires during the season. Also, it made me think of a similarly awful Christmas episode, one from my most favorite of all shows: Super Dimension Fortress Macross episode 35.

Merry Christmas; today we remember love for these two heartbreaking moments in anime. What is apparent is that having sad events transpire during a supposedly happy time of the year — for many of us (especially children and the young at heart) it’s the happiest time of the year — it makes the sad stuff even sadder. Done well, this becomes poignant and meaningful. To me, it’s just a kind of awfulness that I can’t tear myself away from.

Merry Christmas, Miclones (Episode 35: “Romanesque”)

The episode starts with some heavy handed ominousness: a snake attacks a bird’s nest located on a crashed Zentraedi ship. The mother bird puts up a desperate effort to ward the snake away. It is the jungle, and right now it’s the temporary home Kamjin Kravshera, an altogether different kind of snake, is leaving behind.Kamjin vows to make the miclones pay for giving them culture, then we see the snake coil contentedly on the bird’s nest; blue feathers scattered around it.

The whole thing is a metaphor about Humans nesting with Zentreadi on the ruined Earth, or perhaps the ‘cultured’ Zentraedi integrating with humans on the devastated Earth. There are snakes like Kamjin who still pose a legitimate threat.

It’s Christmas season in the city (December 23), and it’s snowing. I see this heartbreaking sequence: the three Zentraedi former spies (Warera, Loli, and Conda… ‘WareRoriKon’ — literally, “we are lolicons”), totally luckless, trying to hustle by (failing at) selling toys. They had been fired from the cleaning company for getting the clothes in their care signed by Minmay. The pioneers of Zentraedi integration are failing miserably at life. Why? Maybe because more than anything else, and at the expense of most other things, they are Minmay otaku.

And then we find Minmay alone in a park, sitting on a swing having been left by Kaifun and no longer wanting to sing. She’s washed up, and much too soon. But then again, everybody alive has already heard her songs. There is no one else to sing to, except maybe for her most die-hard fans. But she didn’t even want to see them, and the last we see of our Zentraedi spies is their failure to catch up with Minmay, who was the catalyst for their transformation.

Transformation into what? From mediocre officers to fail otaku. No wonder Kamjin is so pissed! Is this the culmination of Minmay’s contribution? Is this the true face of her legacy? It gets worse. She shows up at Hikaru’s doorstep and throws herself at him, telling him how she lost herself and how she’s quit singing, then begging him to let her stay for the night.

This is terrible enough, but Misa catches this part of the conversation, and Hikaru’s acquiescance. She runs through the snowed out streets, and was even mistaken for a drunk. But soon enough she becomes a drunken mess herself, mangling Minmay’s Sunset Beach at the bar. Claudia finds her, thinking of drinking Roy’s share of bourbon.

The next day Kamjin attacks Onoji City’s industrial sector to steal a reaction engine. Cruelly he leaves a bomb in a Santa Claus display, blowing up parts of the city. Hikaru, Max, and Millia had to abort pursuit to assist civilians in the fire. Christmas for the residents of Onoji city really sucked. And yet, inside a Catholic church, the people are singing Silent Night, Holy Night.

Minmay can hear them, and I imagine her praying for Hikaru’s safety, the same Hikaru who’s berating his commanding officer for not alerting him about the attack. You broke her heart, that’s why! She only told him that he shouldn’t leave the door to his place open. It’s not safe… T_T It’s Christmas Eve, and Minmay made Hikaru a great dinner, complete with Christmas cake. She also asked him to quit the army, and finally, finally they kissed.

By all means I should be happy. This is my ship, the boat I sailed all my life, and yet I feel so awful! Such a terribly sad Christmas episode, and on Christmas Day itself the whole thing ends. T_T

Bernie Shows a Bit of Character (Episode 05: “Say it isn’t so, Bernie”)

We first see the last moments of the MS-18E Kämpfer at the hands of the RX-78NT-1 Gundam “Alex”, reminding us of the failure of the Cyclops Team’s mission. The point is hammered home by the subsequent scene wherein the ruthless Col. Killing murdered fellow Zeon officers to seize control of a nuclear warhead in Granada base.

Zeon knows about the Gundam prototype, and is prepared to do anything to destroy it. The “Alex” is a prototype built specifically for a Newtype pilot, to take advantage of one Amuro Ray. Zeon, even after reading the writing on the wall, is now fighting with both pride and spite. The ban on nuclear weapons now seems so flimsy in the face of their lack of scruples in the face of defeat.

Christina Mackenzie handles the press inquiring about the battle. She doesn’t divulge the existence of the Gundam, despite the reporter browbeating her with statistics: 246 people dead, 572 people wounded just days before Christmas. She defends her actions by saying that if they didn’t fight, more people would’ve gotten killed. “It couldn’t be helped.” The reporter retorts that it isn’t the point. “Nobody should get killed because ‘it couldn’t be helped.'”

Al gets some fast food, but his run through the city shows him images of death and destruction. He is visibly shaken as he takes lunch to Bernie, who now is the sole survivor of the Cyclops team. As he waits for Al near Steiner Hardie’s rude grave, he thinks of his conversation with the Zeon asset in the colony, who warns him of the Zeon fleet who will nuke the colony if the Gundam isn’t destroyed by Christmas.

He has an unpleasant lunch with Al, to whom he warns about the nuke, and that he’s leaving the colony that day. Al is vehement, calling Bernie a coward. Al has utmost faith in Bernie being able to destroy the Gundam. After all, he told Al that he needed only one more enemy kill to become an ace. If they fix the Zaku, Al believes Bernie can take on the Gundam and win.

Bernie levels the truth like a weapon:

Al, the truth is I’ve never even shot down one mobile suit! …I’m a rookie, Al. A fifth wheel. Just over here for the ride.

Steiner Hardie suspected that there was something foul going on when Col. Killing assigned Bernie to the Cyclops team, despite the importance of the mission they were being told to do. Bernie jokingly told Al that he was just short of an ace, but the truth is that Zeon had been losing so badly that the flower of their armed forces are already killed, and that the ones shoring up the remnants are rookies like Bernie.

Bernie musters up some tenderness and implores Al to leave the colony and live. He will do the same.

Despite the recent violence and devastation, there are parts of the city wherein the Christmas season is in full swing; though Bernie doesn’t seem to get into the commercial spirit of things. Rather, he is filled with the horror that all these people are going to die.

The distraught Al walks into Christina on his way home. She asks her a hypothetical: what would she do if she found out that the colony was going to get attacked by a fleet? Would she run or fight?

I think I’d fight. No I don’t think I would [run away]… Of course I’d be scared. But I can handle being scared. What I can’t handle was being left alone… If I lost my mom and dad and you and my friends… If everyone who’s special to me were killed and only I lived. I couldn’t live with myself if I ran away and left them all to die. [Only a coward runs away] No, that’s not what I mean. If I fight, it’s for my own sake. I’d fight because I’d be scared of being left alone. But that’s what I’d do. Another person may want to run. Everyone has to decide for themselves which choice to make.

If you fight people may die, If you don’t fight, people may still die. There is no “right or “wrong” choice to make. All you can try is to do what you think is right. I think I answered you more than I should have, sorry.

What a jarringly realist perspective… and what a remarkable thing to say to the boy! I think that in the second paragraph she was talking more to herself than to Al, hence her apology. But now these two (indirect) authority figures in his life gave contrasting perspectives on the crisis.

A little later he runs into his school friends, who are having the time of their lives picking up ammunition shells from the debris of their school (I think the Kämpfer’s shotgun shell is inaccurately scaled though). As if he thought these friends of his are doomed by nuclear blast while they carried on this way, Al couldn’t fight back the tears even as he tried to laugh his way out of them.

But he did find resolve, and headed straight to the police station to warn the colony of the nuclear attack; despite his involvement as an accomplice to the Cyclops Team’s activities (he located the Gundam for them), which Bernie told him would lead to his execution. Unfortunately, back when he was an accomplice, he earned the affinity (if not trust) of the Cyclops Team by shaking off police investigation for them by giving the police a false lead. Now they won’t listen to him because he’s now the ‘boy who cried wolf.’

Bernie ended up finding his courage. On the cusp of leaving the colony for some resort destination. Maybe due to not having the heart to leave Al behind, and in wanting to honor the memory of the fallen members of the Cyclops Team — but he did his part by warning him. Something tells me he was thinking of Chris. I wouldn’t go as far to say he’s in love with her, as charming as she is, but some chivalry is in play — since he did choose to fight in the spirit of doing ‘the right thing.’

And it felt good didn’t it Bernie? To hear Al apologize and ask respectfully this time. You just start believing you can actually do it.

I realize that this episode isn’t as sad unless I think of what happens in the next, similar to how it is with SDF Macross where I know Minmay loses Hikaru to Misa with finality in the next ep, Bernie meets his end in War in the Pocket 06. It’s a peculiar feeling — a sadness that can only be appreciated in hindsight, and only relished through rewatching.

Is it overkill that these tragedies are set in Christmas? Perhaps, but I for one particularly enjoy them for choosing this holiday to stage their tragic resolutions — which are tragic only in context too. After all, Misa and Hikaru together is a joyful event for most Macross fans, and one can argue that Al gets to grow up a lot after the whole experience with Bernie and his death.

Well, one can certainly argue that, but I don’t think it’ll be easy to convince anyone that it averts the sad end. But these two episodes, when viewed in retrospect, are sterling examples of how somberness is powerful and are timely set-ups for the dramatic resolutions.

Merry Christmas.

Further Reading

Al and Bernie are two of my good old boys from Gundam [->]
If you love War in the Pocket, then you must read about the next episode. This post is one of my favorites ever published in an anime blog (Iknight 2008/01/18)
Christmas is hell, because war is hell (otou-san 2009/12/24)

Haven’t seen any Gundam at all? Don’t know where to start? WHY ARE YOU READING THIS POST!? But by all means Find your Gateway Gundam!

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in Gundam, Macross, moments in anime and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Christmas Anime Heartbreak

  1. So I’m not the only one that thought Bernie looked like Char in that one scene….

    • It’s because you don’t read posts about Gundam unless you think they’re saying something bad against it. IKnight said it a long time ago; and My Good Old Boys post said so as well,and it was about Setsuna too.

      Merry Christmas!

  2. I’m not sure why the Christmas timing is paired along with tragedy except as a contrast or maybe as a way of trying to use the season as a background reminder to try and cheer up. But whatever the motivation, it makes for good downer episodes. Macross in particular felt like a very dark moment both for the Terrans and for Misa. Now I want to rewatch 0080 again, I loved how sad the ending was.

    The real Christmas tragedy in Macross was Minmay getting that kiss with Hikaru 😛

    • Thanks for engaging the idea of the post instead of merely dumping on Minmay (and me) like our comrade (you know which fag). That said, Y U DO DIS?

      Merry Christmas ^_^

      • Merry Christmas to you too!

        Haha, I hate only on Minmay, not on her poor, misled followers that are goodhearted, but mistakenly swayed by her False Tears. I feel for her Wermacht soldiers, even if your leader was wrong 😛 And even years after the end of the conflict, my comrades and I must continue to speak the truth of what happened so that we NEVAR FORGET the events of The Great Patriotic Love Triangle War! The ability to creatively reinterpret history is what caused things like Operation Stardust and the Neo-Zeon movements.

        • Go watch Do You Remember Love? NAO!

          This creative interpretation of history angle is a great way to ‘read’ the narrative from. I’m serious. Before you write, check out WRL’s huge post on DYRL last October 14. This will give you some perspective as well.

  3. Crusader says:

    You deserve to feel awful when Minmay seemed to be on the verge of total victory, she didn’t deserve it, Misa did. 😛

    • You are a terrible person for piling on the Minmay haet. What has she ever done to you? LOL kidding aside I swear I shall have my revenge on all of you. You WILL remember love. Mark my words…

      Merry Christmas comrade! Let’s enjoy The False Diva hopefully soon ^_^

  4. aoineko says:

    Ah, your title brought “School Days” quickly to mind. No war but probably one of the most psychotic Christmas dates around. Not as long lived or with the fandom of Gundam but definitely one anime with a Christmas ending that definitely fits your title.

    Well written post, thanks!

  5. animekritik says:

    Not having seen these episodes, I didn’t really read your post but just wanted to say Merry Xmas!!

  6. gaguri says:

    I skipped the gundam section too because that’s one anime I am definitely going to watch sometime, but hey merry xmas!

    • Can’t wait for your take on War in the Pocket. While I think it’s best appreciated in the context of the rest of the Universal Century if not the whole franchise, I do believe that it is transcendent of the franchise, mecha, and perhaps even anime itself… and your take on it may or may not validate my opinion to a degree. Not to pressure you or anything ^_^

      Merry Christmas!

  7. seinime says:

    Merry Christmas.

  8. DK Eternity says:

    Having recently finished SDF Macross and rewatched War in the Pocket, and yeah, these tragic events do contrast with the Christmas atmosphere. And I think that it really is because of this contrast that those tragic events become more meaningful. I enjoyed this rewatch of War in the Pocket because of this, and it seems that finishing up SDF Macross at this time was also a good decision.

    Note to self: Rewatch these shows again next year. Also rewatch School Days next year. Maybe I’ll get to like it more.

    Anyway… Merry Christmas!

    • Ahh at last someone who appreciates the material without being reduced to a shipping faggot (corollary: ghostlightning and mechafetish are shipping faggots on the Minmay vs. Misa; and Ranka vs. Sheryl continuum respectively).

      Christmas is such a loaded idea that it makes almost anything meaningful. Since it’s expected to be the season for moral lessons and heartwarming stories, the tragedy becomes a refreshing contrast amidst the cliches that literally storm viewers every year.

      Merry Christmas!

  9. LostMarbles says:

    Aside from the contrast between the usual Christmas merriment and the tragedy, I think that watching tragic fiction in itself makes us feel good. There’s got to be some reason that people went to see Titanic multiple times knowing they’d bawl or that we hold tragedy to be the highest form of theatre. Personally, I like the feeling of heartbreak when induced by television, movies or books and I seek it out many times.

    Now I’m off to watch the last 3 episodes of 0080 inter-spaced with Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz (which even with the happy ending is not too cheerful).

    • I wish I understand better the precise thing about what makes me enjoy tragic fiction so much. Maybe it’s because it’s fiction? But I enjoy tragic presentations of history as well (as I do tragic historical fiction). I remember reading Aristotle, but somehow his idea of Catharsis doesn’t resonate so much with me.

      • LostMarbles says:

        I never could buy the idea of Catharsis, yet it seemed to alway be the go to explanation for why we enjoy these things. If I were going to reach for a philosophy text that got closer to giving a satisfying answer to our love for tragedy I’d go for Nietzsche’s “The Birth of Tragedy”. If I remember correctly a large part of why we seek tragedies (Nietzsche mostly talks about the Greek tragedy, but I think this is more widely applicable) is that it allows us to give up emotional control for a while.

  10. Ningyo says:

    imho the graveness of these episodes aren’t really opposite ends of a spectrum with christmas. when you think about it, the basis of christmas is the birth of christ, which happened at night, in a stable because all the inns and stayingplaces were full. it was a humble, solemn moment, which I think is really illustrated well with the solemnity of silent night.

    When it comes down to it, I think Christmas is actually a very austere celebration; the pinnacle of the buildup, christmas eve, is even sung in age old rhymes as a quiet time when not even a mouse is stirring.
    These episodes are a contrast to our contemporary conditioned idea of Christmas merriment, yes, but less so to the religious meaning of the holiday. To me the gentle warmth of christmas is more prominent than the cheer, and there is a degree of warmth in the Macross episode.

  11. Ningyo says:

    Oh, and of course, this is certainly a bit late, but merry christmas, GL, and everyone.

    • Thanks and Merry Christmas to you again. The mythology and meta-mythology involved in Christmas is tremendously rich and has been consumed and regurgitated again for consumption so many times that it is a world unto itself independent yet interdependent of and from all its sources and participants.

      Going back to the source-myth, stripped down of all the pomp and commerce; we do have a rather austere event; or at least, the austerity in it contains a lot of power that is juxtaposed sharply with the arrival of the Magi which gives the event portent and prophetic meaning.

      We see this too in the two examples above. Both stories contain the very modest circumstances of the leads: Hikaru living alone in his pre-fab domicile, accepting a faded idol. Bernie a rookie pilot, doomed to die away from home in a battlefield where he’d rather not fight in but chose to fight for. His story too is far removed from directly influencing the One Year War, it’s a War in the Pocket after all.

  12. gloval says:

    The SDF-1 all lit up for Christmas is an awesome sight.

    I’d add in ToraDora episode 19 where almost all characters were in some degree of sadness, loneliness and misery when Christmas came, and the ED played a sort of cheerful Christmas song.

    Merry Christmas!

    • Merry Christmas! I didn’t think of that episode as particularly tragic — especially in light of the finale: it’s a significant event in the building of the Ryuuji x Taiga love story. But yes, there was a lot of misery there only serving to contrast against the hopeful resolution of the episode.

  13. I loved/hated both of these Christmas animes. War in the Pocket in particular showed the futility of war in a poignant, understated way the new Gundams can’t seem to capture.

    • Ugh, how could I have missed this comment. I agree with what you said about understatement. Even shows like Turn A Gundam can beat us over the head about its commentary on war’s futility.

      War as a subject isn’t as sexy anymore. The characters of shows have taken over as the primary draw and source of viewer interest to such an overwhelming degree.

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  17. HeatPhoenix says:

    Gonna rewatch 0080 this xmas.

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